How To Do Qualitative Research in Military Organizations: An Embedded Perspective

Jakob Rømer Barfod

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearch


The paper will outline and discuss how to conduct qualitative, up-close studies of military teams in action, by being embedded as a participant observer, and the possibilities and challenges of this kind of research. The purpose of the project is to analyze how leadership emerges in military high-risk teams where the soldiers are subjected to exceptional conditions. Work in high-risk environments is characterized by a complexity that makes it impossible to predict all scenarios, as an unexpected or unforeseen mistake or incident can affect all aspects of the organization in unexpected or unforeseen ways. The subject is a Danish tactical military unit consisting of eight teams in action in Afghanistan, in total about 80 individuals. The research project takes as its starting point leadership in several Danish military high-risk teams. Different units are embedded and the research takes place while conducting tactical operations, and in the periods between conducting actual operations. I take on the role of an active team member, and when possible I conduct interviews ‘on the move’, and recordings from a helmet camera is used in follow-up interviews after action. Being in the beginning of a three years research project, the focus of this paper will in particular be on methodology and a discussion of some of the advantages of this type of research, including what this type of research is able to shed light on, but also some of the issues which obviously are difficult to address.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes
EventThe International Applied Military Psychology Symposium. IAMPS 2018 - Bukarest, Romania
Duration: 7 May 201811 May 2018


ConferenceThe International Applied Military Psychology Symposium. IAMPS 2018
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